According to a new study in psychology, walking in an urban environment or in a rural space would not have the same impact on our brain. In the first situation, our steps would be slower and our mind more occupied. On the contrary, in nature, our mind would be more peaceful and our pace faster.
This scientific work includes two separate experiments in which sixty-five students participated. By placing them in specific situations, the research team measured their walking speed and reaction time. Approach of an individual would indicate their cognitive load, while reaction time would allow evaluation of processes such as attention.
For many people, natural surroundings are pleasant and calming, characteristics that are rarely found in urban spaces. It may be that walking in nature is less stressful for humans because it is a more or less constant backdrop throughout human evolution.
Difficult concentration in town
The first experiment looked at the gait and the cognitive load of the participants. The students, equipped with sensors, were filmed by a dozen cameras capable of detecting their movements as they walked into a 15-meter-long room. On the wall in front of them was projected an image of a rural or urban landscape.
After their walk, each participant had to assess the feeling of discomfort that the visual environment projected on the wall gave him. Overall, individuals reported experiencing more discomfort when faced with cityscape images. Moreover, their pace was slower than when they saw rural landscapes.
In the second experiment, the scientists wanted to analyze what types of higher cognitive processes were summoned in the different spaces. The students had to distinguish various simple visual forms on a computer, while facing images of nature or city (the same as in the first experiment).
By analyzing the reaction times of each participant, the research team found that when individuals were placed in an urban space, they took longer to differentiate between shapes. This could be explained by the fact that humans would have a harder time concentrating in an urban environment, which demands more of their attention. However, this study is not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions, more research should be done on larger cohorts and outside of a laboratory.
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